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Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - Page updated at 12:33 PM

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Outlook is positive at Microsoft's annual meeting

Seattle Times technology reporter

Microsoft shareholders took in the sunshine from Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer at the company's annual meeting this morning.

They also overwhelmingly re-elected nine directors, rejected three shareholder proposals and ratified Deloitte & Touche as Microsoft's independent auditor.

The company's top executives gave positive outlooks on the wave of new products Microsoft is introducing in the next 12 months, including the Zune media player — which went on sale today — and new versions of its flagships, Windows Vista and Office 2007.

"We believe that these new products will spark renewed interest in purchasing new PCs and owning new devices, and, perhaps most importantly for our shareholders, in acquiring the latest technology from Microsoft," Ballmer said.

Investors at previous years' meetings complained to executives about the company's flat stock price. But many in attendance today seemed content with the company's performance and were anticipating gains in the near future.

"I think they're headed in the right direction, and I think eventually all of us are looking for that stock price to increase," said Fran Jerdee of Puyallup, who said she's owned shares since the company went public in 1986. "A lot of people believe, like we do, that it will go up with what they've got coming into the market."

The stock has been trading above $29 for the last few days — a price not seen for two years. Shares were down 12 cents to $29.13 in mid-afternoon trading Tuesday on the Nasdaq.

The re-elected board members are: Gates, Ballmer, James Cash Jr., Dina Dublon, Raymond Gilmartin, David Marquardt, Charles Noski, Helmut Panke and Jon Shirley.

The defeated shareholder proposals pertained to doing business with governments that engage in human or labor rights abuses; creating an employment policy that makes no reference to sexual orientation; and hiring a proxy advisory firm to give shareholders independent advice.

Benjamin J. Romano: bromano@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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